Margot Huysman reviews the second instalment of Don’t Pitch Me, Bro! at Google Campus.
Last Thursday, Google Campus was invaded by start-ups desperate to present their ideas and get feedback from their peers. The location wasn’t a surprise, but the format is relatively new: getting feedback and advice from an audience of start-up founders, lawyers, PRs, marketing people and writers doesn’t happen every day – normally, you’re lucky if you get a few grunts from a venture capitalist.
This was the second instalment of Don’t Pitch Me, Bro!, which marked the last event for newly-appointed deputy chief executive of Tech City, Benjamin Southworth: his last hoorah before leaping boldly into the public sector.
The festivities started with free beer and pizza, courtesy of Raptor. Business cards were exchanged. You know the drill.
Then it was time for pitching. Four companies were up to present. The idea is to give a live demo of the product or service, give the audience an idea of what it is all about, and then use the crowd as a judge on what you’re getting right and what you need to work on.
First up was Sale Rail, a website thought up by recent university graduate Graham Peterson. Graham wants to bring all high street sales to one place.
He has been working on the project for a while now, in his spare time, having a day job unrelated to the site. He is one of those founders who has taught himself everything: basic coding, marketing, a bit of sales – proving, of course, that there are no prerequisites to starting your own business – just enthusiasm and a lot of hard work.
A strength of this event format is the quality of conversation that goes on between the public and the founders. Humour is important too: Peterson’s presentation prompted one member of the public to advise him to be “the Ryanair of clothes shopping – it looks so shit, it must be cheap!”
The second start-up was led by Mathias Vagni. His idea, Use The Food, is a platform for food bloggers to post their content and for users to search for recipes according to ingredients they already have. The incentive is to avoid waste.
Founders often have a precise idea of what their product is supposed to achieve, but, often, their idea gets lost in translation, leaving users confused. Events like “Don’t Pitch Me, Bro!” are great in helping founders tackle that issue. Communicating with a neutral, unbiased audience permits for these problems to be highlighted – and eventually addressed. Vagni benefited from just that sort of communication.
Of course, as we were at a tech event in 2012, it was inevitable that the words “big” and “data” would come out eventually. The third “non-pitch” was for Second Sync, a start-up that uses Twitter to extract data about UK television shows. The presentation was terse and poised, leaving many members of the audience to unofficially brand this as one of the best ideas they’d heard in a while.
Because the presentation and demo were so well put together, not much criticising of the product itself happened – and instead the conversation geared towards big data, and the interminable debate of what exactly it is, how it can be used to its full potential and why it has not yet been fully utilised. It’s a conversation topic that is always incredibly fascinating and that leads to lively debates, as I’m sure you’ll agree.
The final start-up, Play Brighter, could have done with some focus. A cross between educational software and an educational game platform, the target market was not clear.
Already attracting a larger, better-quality crowd than the peculiarly-named Flagons Den, Don’t Pitch Me, Bro! looks set to join Digital Sizzle and Silicon Drinkabout as a mainstay of the east London start-up scene.